Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Genius Status Restored! (Question of the Day, 69)
How would you have checked the lamp?
This is a question that's sort of a brain-teaser, and also an insight into the way I think.
We have a playroom for the Babies! -- it's the "Room We Never Know What To Do With" in our house. Originally, it was advertised by the realtor as the fifth bedroom, but that's ridiculous because we have a tri-level house, and all four of the real bedrooms are on the top level, while this one is on the bottom level and has a door to the outside world in it.
For a while it was storage. Then, it was a homework room for the older kids, who never used it for a homework room because they couldn't ask for help while they were off in the wilderness of the Spare Room, so they'd sit at the kitchen table and do their homework.
Then the room was my study, but it didn't do very well as a study because the desk and chair that Sweetie's dad got us and put together were not put together well: the desk was rickety, and he'd somehow put the chair together backwards, so that when I sat the desk the desk rocked back and forth and I was always leaning forward precariously.
Then the room was a guest room, with a futon and table and stuff. That was the most ridiculous room yet, since not only do we never have overnight guests, I actively try to discourage people from visiting in the first place. As a result of that policy, the only guest who ever stayed overnight in the Guest Room was Herman The Wonder Kitten when we first got him.
Now, it's a playroom for the Babies!, where they used to have their inflatable jump castle and now have their slides and baskets of mostly-taken-apart toys and leftover vacuum cleaner parts (the latter being a new category of toy they like.)
The Babies! also had a lamp in there, for a while, a floor lamp they liked to unplug. I'd put the lamp in there, and put it across the room from the door for two reasons: First, it helped spread the light around, so that one lamp could light most of the room by taking advantage of the spillover light from our family room coming in the door, and second, across the room is the plug that's activated by the light switch from the door.
That's where today's question comes in. One day, I went in there and had to turn on the lamp, which meant I had to plug in the lamp (since the Babies! routinely unplug everything in our house.) I was standing across the room, in the dim light, about 12 feet from the switch, and I plugged in the lamp.
It didn't light.
I couldn't see the wall switch to tell if it was on or off.
So I had a dilemma:
I could assume the wall switch was on but the lamp was off, in which case all I had to do was click lamp's own switch and it'd go on.
Or I could assume the wall was off and the lamp was on, in which case I simply needed to go out of the room and click on the switch on the way.
But, here's the real problem. If I assumed wall on, lamp off and clicked the lamp switch and it didn't work, I'd have to go over to the wall switch and click it on -- and what if, then, the lamp didn't go on, because I'd clicked it off? I'd have to make a trip all the way back to turn the lamp on.
On the other hand, if I assumed wall off, lamp on, and went and clicked the wall switch, and it didn't work, I'd have to come back and turn the lamp on anyway.
So I stood there and pondered, because I am a very efficient (lazy) person and didn't want to waste a whole trip across the room. It was sort of like the Monty Hall Puzzle (which I've solved, and which every person in the world was wrong about except me) in a way, only with the real-world consequences of having to walk across a room twice.
I wondered if I should click the lamp on the theory that the lamp was off, because wouldn't someone have turned the lamp off last night? If they'd turned it off, and the Babies! had played in the room that day, the Babies! would have unplugged the lamp but it wouldn't have mattered because it would have been off.
But, I then realized, anyone coming down to turn off the light would have used the switch. Why go all the way across the room to turn off the lamp like a sucker when there's a wall switch there? So, I reasoned, the lamp would be on, the wall switch off, and my best bet was to head out and just click the switch on the way out.
Problem solved, maximum efficiency achieved, I'm a genius.
I did that, and clicked the switch on my way out.
The lamp didn't go on.
I'd been suckered, somehow... so I walked back over to the lamp and clicked the lamp switch, too.
The lamp didn't go on.
As it turned out, the lamp needed a new bulb, too, something that I hadn't factored in to the calculations. Once I took care of that, everything was set to go. And from that point on, what I did was click the wall switch on as I entered the room.
Genius status restored!
Comment on this post to enter the contest! Click here for details.